Saturday morning, March 31st. I left my park housing and made one last visit to a Chaco site, the great kiva at Casa Rinconada, which sits at mile 6 on the loop road. It was a bit after eight, chilly, and very quiet when I parked the car and headed up the short trail to the kiva site. The silence was interrupted by a curious raven which circled and landed not far from the path.
The photo below shows the path as it approaches the kiva. This huge kiva is the only one I noticed in the park that included a sign warning visitors not to enter nor leave objects within it. I suspect there may have been a problem with New Age types wanting to get a bit closer to the spirituality of the ancients.
This kiva is big! One excellent website reports it as 63 feet or 19.2 meters in diameter. The photo below shows (I believe) Pueblo Bonito beyond on the canyon floor. Above on the mesa, one can see the silhouette of the Pueblo Alto ruins.
As I headed for the exits, I got a glimpse of some elk enjoying Chaco’s complimentary breakfast buffet.
The Malibu and I headed out of the park onto County Road 7950 and then turned onto CR 7950. Shortly after the turn, I encountered two middle-aged Navajo hitchhikers. They were headed to Bloomfield, site of the Salmon ruins, and where they said they were getting some help with their income taxes. I was happy to have the company for the 35-minute trip north to this town which appeared to be bustling with activity related to nearby natural gas exploitation.
The older Navajo asked if I was an archaeologist and then told me of some caves near his place where there are some old and undisturbed artifacts. “The Navajo are superstitious people,” he said. “We don’t ever mess with that stuff.” I had just been reading about how the some of the earliest white visitors to Mesa Verde during the late 19th century saw clothing and food left around as if the dwellings had recently been abandoned.
I thought about and what the hitchhiker told me. I have to assume that various Indian populations had plenty of encounters with Mesa Verde in the 600 or so years between its abandonment and discovery by palefaces Richard Wetherill and Charlie Mason. My guess is that they too had no interest in interfering with the items left by Mesa Verdes inhabitants and the spirits that went along with them.
The hitchhikers pointed out the sacred mountain Dzil Na’oodilii (or Huerfano Mesa) along the roadside. The mesa top was bristling with various communications towers, which one would think would be regarded by the Navajo as a desecration. Actually, the desecration of the landscape didn’t stop there. In this thinly populated country plenty of white trucks belonging to gas exploration companies were seen darting around. I took a look the neighborhood with the Google Maps satellite view and noticed that the earth was pocked with gas wells. Zoom out a bit an you see this wonderful image.